Tuesday Reads: 97 Days Until November 3

Good Morning!!

Trump personal attorney Bill Bar will testify before the House Judiciary Committee today. The hearing will begin around 10:45. I should watch it, but I’m going to spare myself that maddening experience. Megan Mineiro of Courthouse News will be tweeting about it, so I’ll check her timeline for updates.

Barr has released his opening statement. CNN: Barr calls Russia scandal ‘bogus,’ says he acts independently of Trump in blistering opening statement: Barr calls Russia scandal ‘bogus,’ says he acts independently of Trump in blistering opening statement.

In Barr’s prepared remarks, which were provided to CNN by the Justice Department on Monday, the attorney general says he has acted independently of President Donald Trump in the decisions he’s made in several criminal cases he’s handled.

“Ever since I made it clear that I was going to do everything I could to get to the bottom of the grave abuses involved in the bogus ‘Russiagate’ scandal, many of the Democrats on this Committee have attempted to discredit me by conjuring up a narrative that I am simply the President’s factotum who disposes of criminal cases according to his instructions. Judging from the letter inviting me to this hearing, that appears to be your agenda today,” Barr says in his written remarks.

Barr’s testimony on Tuesday is his first before the House Judiciary Committee, where Democrats have accused him of committing numerous abuses. It comes after he did not appear at a hearing before the panel last year and a March date was postponed. Democrats plan to push Barr on his intervention into the prosecutions of two Trump allies, his move last month to oust a prominent and powerful US attorney, and the Justice Department’s use of force against protesters to Barr’s threats to state and local officials over their handling of coronavirus. A Democratic committee counsel told reporters Monday that Democratic lawmakers will seek to paint Barr as repeatedly overruling career staff to serve the President’s interests first.

Barr will also face questions on his role in the administration’s crackdown on the protests across the country that followed George Floyd’s killing in May, including the decision to forcibly disperse a peaceful demonstration at Lafayette Square in June and the dispatching of federal officers to Portland, Oregon, where rioters have clashed with authorities nightly outside a complex of federal buildings.

In his opening statement, Barr said the President “has not attempted to interfere” in the criminal decisions he’s made, which would include lessening the sentencing recommendation for Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone and to move to dismiss charges against Trump’s first national security adviser Michael Flynn.

He’s lying, of course. Just Security: “He’s Lying.” New Book Reveals Havoc Bill Barr Wrought Inside Congress.

On Tuesday morning, when Attorney General William Barr finally appears before the House Judiciary Committee, a book will be released covering one of Barr’s most controversial and most consequential actions to date: the attorney general’s grossly misleading summary of the Mueller Report.

The book’s author is Ambassador Norman Eisen, who served as special counsel to the Judiciary Committee during the impeachment hearings of Donald J. Trump. His was not simply a ringside seat; Eisen was a key player. That’s why this behind-the-scenes account sheds new light on the history-shaping impact of Barr’s actions.

“He’s lying.” Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler privately told Eisen and other staff as they tried to make sense of Barr’s 4-page summary without the benefit of the Mueller Report itself. The Chairman “saw right through Barr’s fabrications and was blunt about it,” writes Eisen in the book.

Not everyone else did. Former FBI Director James Comey said in a CNN interview at the time that “Bill Barr, our attorney general, deserves the benefit of the doubt.”

Nadler would be proven correct once the Mueller Report was released, but that would be more than three weeks later—a lifetime in American politics. And it would be almost an exact year before a federal court would weigh in. Judge Reggie B. Walton used part of his opinion in March of this year to call out Barr for the attorney general’s “misleading” and “distorted” account of Mueller’s findings.

That was a harsh assessment with added weight due to its legal significance. As Lisa Gilbert observed at Just Security, “To underscore the significance of Judge Walton’s findings: Barr’s summary of the Mueller Report was not simply a lie told to the media or public. It was a statement Barr submitted to Congress.”

More books about Trump’s and Barr’s corrupt behavior are coming. Andrew Weissmann, one of the top prosecutors in the Mueller investigation has a book coming out on September 29. And now a book by Trump FBI nemesis Peter Strzok has been announced. AP: Ex-FBI agent Strzok due out with book about Trump, Russia.

Former FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, who played a key role in the Russia investigation but whose pejorative text messages about Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign made him a target of the president’s wrath, is releasing a book on his concerns the president could be compromised.

“Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump” is due out Sept. 8, publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books & Media said in a statement to The Associated Press.

The book will offer an insider’s view on some of the most sensational and politically freighted investigations in modern American history, including into whether the 2016 Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to sway the presidential election. Due out two months before the November election, the book adds to the list of first-person accounts from other senior FBI and Justice Department officials during the Trump era.

“Russia has long regarded the United States as its ‘Main Enemy,’ and I spent decades trying to protect our country from their efforts to weaken and undermine us,” Strzok said Tuesday in a statement accompanying the book announcement.

“In this book,” he added, “I use that background to explain how the elevation by President Trump and his collaborators of Trump’s own personal interests over the interests of the country allowed Putin to succeed beyond Stalin’s wildest dreams, and how the national security implications of Putin’s triumph will persist through our next election and beyond.”

Remember when Trump claimed he was invited to throw out the first pitch at a NY Yankees game and later cancelled the appearance because he supposedly is working so hard to defeat the coronavirus pandemic? It turns out the Yankees never actually invited him. The New York Times: Trump Announced, Then Canceled, a Yankees Pitch. Both Came as a Surprise.

An hour before Dr. Anthony S. Fauci threw the first pitch at the season opener between the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals, President Trump stood on the briefing room stage at the White House and declared that he, too, had been invited to throw out his own opening pitch.

“Randy Levine is a great friend of mine from the Yankees,” Mr. Trump, referring to the president of the baseball team, told reporters on Thursday as Dr. Fauci was preparing to take the mound. “And he asked me to throw out the first pitch, and I think I’m doing that on Aug. 15 at Yankee Stadium.”

There was one problem: Mr. Trump had not actually been invited on that day by the Yankees, according to one person with knowledge of Mr. Trump’s schedule. His announcement surprised both Yankees officials and the White House staff.

But Mr. Trump had been so annoyed by Dr. Fauci’s turn in the limelight, an official familiar with his reaction said, that he had directed his aides to call Yankees officials and make good on a longtime standing offer from Mr. Levine to throw out an opening pitch. No date was ever finalized.

Trump just can’t stand it when he isn’t the center of attention. He took a break last night from his “hard work” to retweet vile conspiracy theories that were removed by both Facebookand

The Washington Post: Facebook deleted a viral video full of false coronavirus claims. Then Trump shared it on Twitter.

On Monday evening, Facebook scrubbed from its site a viral video showing a group of doctors making misleading and false claims about the coronavirus pandemic after more than 14 million people had watched it. Hours later, President Trump tweeted out multiple clips of the same video to his 84.2 million followers.

Trump shared the video — which claims that face masks and lockdowns are not needed to stop the disease — as he shared 14 tweets over a half-hour span defending the use of hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug that the president has repeatedly promoted, and attacking Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-diseases expert.

Twitter soon followed Facebook and YouTube in removing the videos, deleting several of the tweets that Trump shared, and even adding a note to its trending topics warning about the potential risks of hydroxychloroquine use….

The video Trump shared Monday night showed a collection of doctors speaking in favor of treating covid-19 patients with the antimalarial drug. The clip focused on the testimony of a woman named Stella Immanuel, who received a medical license in Texas last November, according to state records. The doctor did not return a request for comment.

NBC News: Twitter removes tweet highlighted by Trump falsely claiming COVID-19 ‘cure.’

Twitter removed a tweet that had been retweeted by President Donald Trump that falsely said that there was a cure for the coronavirus.

Late Monday night, Trump retweeted the tweet from an account with the handle “@stella_immanuel” that said: “Covid has cure. America wake up.”

Twitter soon after removed the tweet and replaced it with a gray box that says, “This Tweet is no longer available.”

A cure for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, doesn’t exist and scientists have been working on developing both a range of treatments as well as vaccines. They and the Trump administration are racing to have a vaccine ready by the end of the year….

Trump also retweeted tweets defending the use of the drug hydroxychloroquine, including one that accused Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, of misleading the public by dismissing the drug.

“Doctor” Immanuel has quite a resume. The Daily Beast: Trump’s New Favorite COVID Doctor Believes in Alien DNA, Demon Sperm, and Hydroxychloroquine.

A Houston doctor who praises hydroxychloroquine and says that face masks aren’t necessary to stop transmission of the highly contagious coronavirus has become a star on the right-wing internet, garnering tens of millions of views on Facebook on Monday alone. Donald Trump Jr. declared the video of Stella Immanuel a “must watch,” while Donald Trump himself retweeted the video.

Before Trump and his supporters embrace Immanuel’s medical expertise, though, they should consider other medical claims Immanuel has made—including those about alien DNA and the physical effects of having sex with witches and demons in your dreams.

Immanuel, a pediatrician and a religious minister, has a history of making bizarre claims about medical topics and other issues. She has often claimed that gynecological problems like cysts and endometriosis are in fact caused by people having sex in their dreams with demons and witches.

She alleges alien DNA is currently used in medical treatments, and that scientists are cooking up a vaccine to prevent people from being religious. And, despite appearing in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress on Monday, she has said that the government is run in part not by humans but by “reptilians” and other aliens.

Immanuel gave her viral speech on the steps of the Supreme Court at the “White Coat Summit,” a gathering of a handful of doctors who call themselves America’s Frontline Doctors and dispute the medical consensus on the novel coronavirus. The event was organized by the right-wing group Tea Party Patriots, which is backed by wealthy Republican donors.

Read more at the link.

That’s all from me today. What stories are you following?


Friday Reads

Illustration by Alan Baker

Good Morning!!

Dakinikat has a doctor’s appointment, so I’m filling in for her today. I’m illustrating this post with fantasy animal houses (mostly bunnies), just because.

So what’s happening?

House Democrats are inching toward impeachment hearings. They aren’t going to have much choice, since Trump and Cover-Up General Barr are stonewalling on releasing the full Mueller report along with the underlying evidence.

The New Yorker: House Democrats Debate Impeachment. The article notes that after two years of caution about impeachment from Democratic leaders, even moderate Democrats are now calling for it.

In recent days, however, even more moderate Democrats have begun speaking about impeachment, in response to Trump’s stonewalling of House investigations. “We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” he told reporters last week. “Look, these aren’t like impartial people. The Democrats are trying to win in 2020.” In response, Representative Jamie Raskin, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, told the Times that he is open to a limited impeachment inquiry, adding, “President Trump’s defiance of Congress is far more comprehensive and sweeping than anything Congress experienced during the Watergate period.”

Bunny Dream House by Sandra Steffensen

After Attorney General William Barr refused to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, rejecting the committee’s condition that staff attorneys question him, other House members echoed Raskin’s warning. That morning, on CNN, Representative Ted Lieu said, “If the Trump Administration wants impeachment, they’re doing a good job of pushing Democrats there, because we want to first gather facts to decide if we should impeach. If we can’t gather facts, then we’re going to launch an impeachment.” Of the three articles of impeachment presented against Richard Nixon after Watergate, Lieu noted, the third was contempt of Congress.

For now, Democrats are pursuing a strategy that, in practice, could easily turn out to be the first, informal phase of an impeachment inquiry. They’re investigating, but without formally signalling that they believe Trump committed impeachable offenses. When I spoke to several members of the House Judiciary Committee last week, none ruled out the possibility of impeachment. “That’s another possible reasonable course,” Representative Madeleine Dean said. “I happen to like the course we’re on better, and here’s why. I have several key takeaways from the Mueller report that, for me, demand answers to questions. So I’d rather not pre-frame it with ‘We’re doing it in order to impeach or with the hope of impeaching.’ ”

Read more at the link.

Yesterday, Gerry Nadler gave a strong speech at the Judiciary Committee hearing that Barr was supposed to attend. I hope you’ll listen to it.

Nadler has a long history with Trump in New York, and I don’t think he is going to put up with Trump’s and Barr’s obstruction much longer. Yesterday we learned that his committee is in direct talks with Robert Mueller about testifying. The Hill reports:

Bunny tree house

Special counsel Robert Mueller‘s team is in direct talks with the House Judiciary Committee about whether he will testify before Congress, according to multiple reports.

NBC News and ABC News reported that the committee is now speaking with Mueller’s team when it was previously dealing with the Justice Department. NBC reports that a hearing has not been finalized and a date was not set.

That’s good news. It’s about time Mueller started speaking out. He really should have done so sooner.

CNN: Mueller’s silence let Trump supporters fill the void.

All his life, the Vietnam War Marine veteran has lived out a code of discreet personal values — elevating government service, the rule of law and respect for the chain of command.

But now, the uproar triggered in the wake of Mueller’s Russia investigation raises the question of whether his time-honored methods have left him vulnerable to exploitation in a new political era of hyper-partisanship and self-aggrandizing.

And the discord is increasing calls for Mueller to break his silence in the most public way — in hearings being demanded by House Democrats, which would become one of the most hotly anticipated congressional appearances in years.

Pookie house, by Ivy Wallace

Mueller’s habitual reticence earned him a reputation for integrity that made him the ideal choice for the radioactive mission of investigating a sitting president’s campaign.
But in retrospect, it let others — who do not necessarily follow his blueprint for life — tell his story themselves.

Ultimately, the special counsel’s absence allowed Attorney General William Barr to step in and provide his own interpretation of Mueller’s report — with which Mueller now differs.
That left the long-held assumption that Mueller’s words in his report would speak for themselves undermined — to the political advantage of President Donald Trump, who is claiming blanket exoneration that the report does not confer.

Read the rest at CNN.

Dahlia Lithwick at Slate: Mueller Can’t Get Away With Silence Anymore. The gist:

If Attorney General William Barr’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday demonstrated anything, it was that a deep rupture has yawned open between these two old friends and Washington lifers. It wasn’t just that Barr denigrated Mueller as a “political appointee” or dismissed his March 27 letter as “snitty,” and thus clearly the work of underlings. It wasn’t just that Barr implied that Mueller was either too timid or too incompetent to come to a conclusion on the question of whether Donald Trump had obstructed justice. And it wasn’t just that Barr suggested that since the entire Mueller probe had been proven to be “based on false accusations,” it was illegitimate, which certainly suggests that Mueller devoted two long years to a—you guessed it—witch hunt. Presumably, from now on, if the president decides any legal investigation is “based on false accusations,” he can just go ahead and impede it, a framing that makes a hash of everything Mueller sought to do. When pressed Wednesday on Mueller’s bona fides, Barr snapped that “Bob Mueller is the equivalent of a U.S. Attorney. … His work concluded when he sent his report to the attorney general. At that point, it was my baby.” This is not how you talk about a colleague you respect.

Secret World of Rabbits Above and Below, by Vince Desjardins

But it’s not just that. At the most basic level, Barr has distorted Mueller’s actual work product, including his polite and confidential and lawyerly letter asking (twice) that Barr correct his inaccurate summary of Mueller’s careful report. It’s a letter that Wired’s Garrett Graff, who wrote a book about Mueller, described thusly: “I’ve read just about every word Bob Mueller has ever said publicly or published. He’s written precisely one letter like the angry one he sent to Barr: It excoriated Scotland for letting the Pan Am 103 bomber out of prison.”

Read the whole thing at Slate.

Last night, Rachel Maddow made an argument for what I’ve been saying all along. Cover-Up General Barr effectively fired Mueller for Trump. He likely shut down the investigation, with the help of Rod Rosenstein. Here’s Rachel’s take on it, in case you missed it.

In other news, The media is vetting Bernie Sanders this time. The Washington Post has a big story on Bernie’s honeymoon in the Soviet Union: Inside Bernie Sanders’s 1988 10-day ‘honeymoon’ in the Soviet Union: Inside Bernie Sanders’s 1988 10-day ‘honeymoon’ in the Soviet Union.

Bernie Sanders was bare-chested, towel-draped, sitting at a table lined with vodka bottles, as he sang “This Land Is Your Land” to his hosts in the Soviet Union in the spring of 1988.

The just-married socialist mayor from Vermont was on what he called “a very strange honeymoon,” an official 10-day visit to the communist country, and he was enthralled with the hospitality and the lessons that could be brought home.

“Let’s take the strengths of both systems,” he said upon completing the trip. “Let’s learn from each other.”

The Soviet sojourn has long been an extraordinary, if little understood, chapter in Sanders lore. He has for years used it to help explain his views about foreign policy, citing it as recently as last month….

As he stood on Soviet soil, Sanders, then 46 years old, criticized the cost of housing and health care in the United States, while lauding the lower prices — but not the quality — of that available in the Soviet Union. Then, at a banquet attended by about 100 people, Sanders blasted the way the United States had intervened in other countries, stunning one of those who had accompanied him.

“I got really upset and walked out,” said David F. Kelley, who had helped arrange the trip and was the only Republican in Sanders’s entourage. “When you are a critic of your country, you can say anything you want on home soil. At that point, the Cold War wasn’t over, the arms race wasn’t over, and I just wasn’t comfortable with it.”

I imagine Trump will have fun with that.

More stories to check out, links only:

Bloomberg: Someone Did Get to Look at Trump’s Tax Returns: Deutsche Bankers.

The Washington Post: Trump is already set to use the government to destroy the Democratic nominee.

Heather Digby Parton at Raw Story: Will Trump order Bill Barr to sabotage Joe Biden?

The New York Times: The Coming Subpoena Fights Between Trump and Congress, Explained.

The Washington Post: Watergate had the Nixon tapes. Mueller had Annie Donaldson’s notes.

Media Matters: Study: Major media outlets’ Twitter accounts amplify false Trump claims on average 19 times a day.

The New York Times: Woody Allen Pitched a Memoir. Publishers Weren’t Interested.

Vanity Fair: Apparently, No One Wants Woody Allen’s New Memoir.

The Daily Beast: Mark Halperin Enlists Pals Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, and Michael Smerconish to Rehab His Career After Sexual Misconduct Scandal.

So . . . what else is happening? What stories have you been following?